This section will tell you all the main things you may want to know about Naturopathy to help you make the right choice of medicine or treatment for solving your particular health problem. Below, there is a listing of Q&A with doctor / health expert replies to questions pertaining to Naturopathy, followed by list of Naturopathy related articles on the site.
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Naturopathy is a form of Alternative Medicine which uses a wide range of natural treatments including herbal therapy, homeopathy, acupuncture and it also uses lifestyle modification and dieting. It prefers a more holistic approach in a non-invasive way.
Naturopathy has a “personalized” approach to medicine that involves constitutional assessment, leading to primary prevention, diagnosis and therapeutics. It focuses on curing a disease by removing the root cause rather than resorting to symptomatic treatment.
Naturopathic practitioners can be typically one of the below three types:
- Traditional Naturopaths – purely alternative medicine practitioners
- Naturopathic Physicians – employ principles of naturopathy within the ambit of conventional medical practices
- Other healthcare providers that provide Naturopathic services
The term ‘Naturopathy’ was coined by John Scheel and popularized by the father of Naturopathy, Benedict Lust.
Healing one’s body with the vital energy produced in the body itself has been the main philosophy of this school of treatment. It focuses more on the body’s natural ability to heal and depends on alternative therapies and natural methods for diagnosis and treatment. The main principle clashes with that of Evidence based Medicine (EBM).
There is initially a lengthy interview of the concerned patient concerning various aspects such as clinical history, features both physical and mental, lifestyle etc. Traditional naturopaths believe only in lifestyle modification. Others sometime prescribe medicines and perform minor surgery and call themselves as ‘Primary care providers’. Many naturopaths oppose vaccination and naturopaths, in general, do not prefer antibiotics.
Principles followed in Naturopathy
- Physician being teacher
- Treating the whole person
- The healing power of Nature
- Treating the cause
- Healing without harming
Naturopathy has its roots in Germany and was found around the beginning of the 20th century. Benedict Lust is considered to be one of the founding fathers of Naturopathy and a pioneer of what is now known as Classical Naturopathy. The further development of Naturopathy was carried out in United States in late 19th and 20th century. The word Naturopathy has its origins in Greek and Latin and means nature disease. Naturopathy is based on the central belief that nature has healing power. Naturopathy today is practiced in a many countries such as United States, Germany, Great Britain, Canada, New Zealand and Australia.
Modern Science evaluates all medical disciplines using the Evidence Based Medicine (EBM) paradigm. EBM consists of a randomized controlled trial method which is very useful for assessing single treatments for individual diseases. Many randomized controlled trials have suggested that naturopathic treatments such as nutritional therapies, botanical medicine, acupuncture and physiotherapy are effective in treating some health conditions such as fibromyalgia, depression, migraine headaches, hypertension, asthma and type II diabetes.
Some of the therapies used have been researched with varying results. The complicated approach taken up by the naturopath makes the job of the researcher even more difficult. But nonetheless some studies have generated interest. A study of warehouse employees with chronic low-back pain found naturopathy as a more effective approach rather than standard physiotherapy. Researchers have also evidence of improved quality of life in patients with Multiple Sclerosis using Naturopathy. Jaw disorders can also be treated very effectively by Naturopathy.
Going further, randomized controlled trial method may not be the best paradigm in evaluating the effectiveness of multiple treatments for more than one disorder or disease. An example can be cited; Riboflavin, a B vitamin, can reduce the frequency and duration of migraine attacks if used for three months. A Naturopath may use riboflavin in his/her treatment plan while also including any other treatment such as omega 3 fatty acids to reduce inflammation or a dietary intervention. Individual response of the patients might be different.
Naturopathy, like other well-accepted and effective alternative medicines, does not therefore completely lend itself to be tested using this paradigm. Clinical application is much more complex and must be taken into consideration rather than the research trial testing paradigm. Surprisingly, the clinical application of conventional healthcare (Allopathy) follows a similar pattern. According to a recent article in the British Medical Journal, only 13% of conventional healthcare practices, i.e. tests and treatments, have strong evidence in their support.
Methods in Naturopathy
- Clinical Nutrition: Using nutrition as a form of therapy is the cornerstone of this treatment method. Naturopaths make recommendation on diet and suggest improvements such as herbs, minerals and minerals.
- Physical Medicine: Usage of chiropractic techniques, hydrotherapy, diathermy, ultrasound, electrical stimulation, heat therapy and light therapy is employed in this method.
- Homeopathy: This is a frequent area of specialization practiced by naturopaths.
- Botanical Medicine: Using whole plants as therapy is the principle behind this method. Naturopaths claim themselves to be trained herbalists. When properly used, whole plants are more effective than the isolated chemicals extracted from herbs and are devoid of unwanted side effects.
- Natural Childbirth: There has been a lot less complication associated with naturopathic obstetric care.
- Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM): TCM is also a common area of specialization practiced by naturopaths.
- Counseling and Psychotherapy: Behavioural therapy, stress management and hypnosis are the common methods applied.
- Minor Surgery: Minor operations like wound repair, removal of foreign bodies, minor haemorrhoid surgery, and circumcision can be done by naturopaths as they are trained to perform these kinds of surgeries.
Safety issues with Naturopathy
Many people claim that naturopathy can be harmful for patients. For that points to consider for assessment are:
- Naturopathy cannot be considered to be a complete substitute of conventional medicine. Relying totally on Naturopathy might bring forth some unwanted consequences as in the case of severe injury or infection and can lead to serious health problems.
- Some of the beliefs are not similar to the conventional medicines and their safety may not be supported by scientific evidence such as the opposition to childhood vaccination by Naturopaths.
- Some of the therapies used can be potentially harmful if not used with proper care and by an untrained practitioner. The herbs used for treatment might have potential side effects and can interact with over the counter drugs.
Things to consider before choosing Naturopathy as therapy
- The qualification of the naturopath may vary from one to another. So ask the practitioner about the license and any other documentation.
- Discuss the medical conditions you have and ask the practitioner whether he/she has any expertise on that.
- Know about the referral network of the practitioner.
- Tell the concerned naturopath about all the medications you are taking in order to avoid harmful drug interaction.
- Tell all the healthcare providers about any other form of therapy used.
- Naturopathy treatment is personalized to the individual
- It work towards removing root cause rather than providing symptomatic treatment
- Because of natural treatments, it is generally very safe with respect to side effects
- Since medicines contain no chemicals or harsh isolated compounds, Naturopathy is the best for long term application as in treatment of chronic diseases
- The medicines and treatments are safe for children as well as pregnant women as opposed to conventional medicine (Allopathy)
- There is no risk of drug dependence and it is very easy to prescribe
- Treatment and results may take longer than conventional (Allopathy) medication
- May not be suited for acute or severe diseases
- There is no strict regulation of the treatment process or medicines
- Emergency conditions are best treated by conventional medicine
The following diseases and conditions are best treated by Naturopathy:
- Anxiety related disorders
- Autism spectrum disorders
- Back pain
- Headache and migraine
- Heart disease
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Coeliac disease
1. What are the main principles of naturopathy?
- The belief in the inner capacity for self-healing of the human body
- Avoiding harmful treatments
- Treat the person as a whole
- Promote prevention
- Educate the patient
2. How does it cure diseases without medicines?
From Naturopathic point of view, the human body has the capacity to fight against diseases and lot of them are self-limiting. Naturopathy only assists the capacity of the body to heal.
3. Is it cost-effective?
Yes. Naturopathy use a preventive approach that reduces the incidence of chronic conditions that later becomes a huge financial burden. So it takes care of the long-term health care expenses.
4. What is mud therapy?
Mud is one of the 5 elements of nature. Before using it, mud is sterilised in sun rays. It absorbs the harmful substances of the body and eliminates them from body.
5. What is diet therapy?
In this form of therapy, the quality and quantity of the diet is changed and regulated as per requirements. Diet should be provided inn natural form and should have fresh seasonal fruits, fresh green leafy vegetables.
6. What is Hydro therapy?
Water is one of the most important elements and has been used as an ancient method of treatment. Steam bath, hot and cold fomentation, sitz bath, immersion bath are different forms of treatment with water.
7. Do Naturopathic doctors use Chinese herbs or acupuncture?
Sometimes yes. Some of the doctors get extra training to use these therapies.
8. Is it against drugs and major surgery?
No, not at all. Naturopaths support suppressive or invasive measures when these forms of treatment are required.